Radio review: Islander (BBC Sounds)

This is a radio version of the award-winning a capella musical Islander. It previously ran at Southwark Playhouse on October 2019, following a successful showing at the Edinburgh Festival.

The two-hander cast of Kirsty Findlay and Bethany Tennick perform all the characters in a beautiful, overlapping soundscape. Myth, legend and reality collide in the lapping waves just off a lonely island as Eilidh meets a mysterious stranger.

Scottish folk traditions and storytelling mix with music in Islander. The score and lyrics are by Finn Anderson, a book by Stewart Melton, and direction by Amy Draper.

Reimagined for the audio space, this is one to savour with headphones. This allows you, as listener, to create your own visuals and story from your own imagination.

I never saw the stage production so have nothing to compare this one with: but as a piece for the radio, this has a certain curious liveliness that keeps you listening. It is only half the length of the theatre version, which makes it a companion piece, not a carbon copy.

The music is vibrant, clever and deeply Celtic in feeling. The sense of the sea, the island, and the terrain on which the islanders live is brought to life. The rhythm and the words which accompany them reflect their power. It’s all rather lovely, and certainly something a bit special.

New musicals of this type continue to challenge the status quo of what the genre can offer; and highlight the best that can come from the festival fringe.

Finn Anderson‘s work has been explored through lockdown in an episode of The Barn Presents, and the full cast recording of the original Islander is on Spotify, Apple, Amazon and other music retailers. He describes his work in his Twitter bio as “stories, songs & music for hungry hearts”.

Islander was broadcast on Radio 4 on 22 January and is available on BBC Sounds until 20 February.

More audio reviews: The Barren Author | Waiting for Hamlet | The Other Tchaikovsky

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